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Mayor honors those who support disabled in community

FORT COLLINS - Mayor Doug Hutchinson smiled Thursday when asked why he believes it is so important that the city recognize the effort and dedication residents and volunteer agencies provide to the disabled community.

"Although I grew up here in Fort Collins, I never really recognized the full extent of support there is from the nonprofit and volunteering community," Hutchinson said during the annual Mayor's Awards, a ceremony honoring the people who work with the disabled community.

"I think Fort Collins is very blessed to have people and organizations like the ones we awarded today."

It's the efforts of people such as Brownie McGraw who helped raise thousands of dollars for the first handicap-accessible playground in the state, which is being built in Fort Collins, and of Denny Bettenhausen who founded the Ensight Skills Center in Fort Collins to help visually impaired people, among many others, that make Fort Collins a great place to live, Hutchinson said.

The true spirit of the awards was captured by Bettenhausen when asked how it felt to be recognized by the city for her efforts.

"It's nice to get the recognition, but I would be doing this work anyway," said Bettenhausen, who is visually impaired. "Helping people who are visually impaired, it's my calling. It's what I am supposed to do."

McGraw, who helped raise nearly $1 million for the Inspiration Playground being built in Spring Canyon Park, said she hopes better awareness of the need for more support of the disabled community comes from her and others' efforts.

"The park will help disabled and nondisabled children be inclusionary and help them play together," McGraw said. "It's kind of hard not to want to get (behind) those kinds of efforts."

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